Evelyn Leggiero, born Evelina Cechich 92, of Yonkers, N.Y. died on Jan. 20, 2022, born to Simone and Anna Cechich, née Stifanich, and raised in the quaint village of San Lorenzo del Pasenatico, in Istria, Italy, on January 22, 1929. She is predeceased by her husband, Joseph, her parents, and all of her siblings: 1 sister, Nina; and 4 brothers: Simone, Pietro, Vittorio, and Amedeo. The area where she was from is now a part of Croatia.
Shortly after the annexation of Istria to Communist Yugoslavia, and having endured the horrors of WWII, she chose to leave, clandestine, rather than live without the freedom she had known, and made her way into Italy on foot, settling in Trieste with cousins living there, and learning the trade of dress design.
Her brother, Pietro, had also escaped communist rule, and wanted for them to come to America in search of the American Dream during the Golden Age of Capitalism. Evelina, who wasn’t entirely keen to come to America, needed to make the journey first before the immigration would close for her. Pietro, who was to follow, never made it, being barred entry into the United States having had contracted tuberculosis in a prisoner of war camp.
Not knowing anyone or English, she arrived by plane, alone, in New York, only to learn that all of her belongings were on the bottom of the ocean on the last voyage of the Andrea Doria in 1956, and then that her brother could not join her. Not having the means to return to Italy, she persevered to make a life for herself in the Little Italy section of the Bronx, and met her husband, Joseph, born Giuseppe Leggiero, also of Italian origin. They were married in October 1958, and celebrated 53 years of marriage before his passing in 2011.
Their two children, Silvana and Robert, who Evelyn often referred to as “her life,” recall many displays of Evelyn and Joe’s love for them and hard work to make a better life for their children than they had growing up in war-torn Europe. They put both children through college, a dream of their own that unfortunately was not possible during WWII. They also bought a house in Yonkers, which they fixed up themselves, learning to do all forms of repair and construction. Yet they made sure to go on a family vacation each summer, usually to the ocean or countryside, or some historic location in the United States. They did go back to their homeland to introduce their spouse and children to their families during a 6-week trip in 1964.
Evelyn had a great talent for sewing, as well as knitting and crocheting, resulting in many homemade house furnishings such as draperies, as well as clothing, especially for her daughter, that was the envy of many, and created a demand for her to work as a seamstress both in dress shops and in her own business.
Evelyn and Joe worked together in the later years leading up to their retirement in 1996. They spent their days working on a bus for handicapped children, and doing errands or taking long walks together in the intervening hours. Once retired, they enjoyed many cruises and the simple pleasures of life.
Evelyn lived a good, and long life, showering all who she met with her warm smile and embracing hugs. Her heart overflowed with love. She could not do enough for you. Given all of the challenges that she endured early in her life, Evelyn had a strong will and determination to persevere. She showed great strength in battling her failing health, and offered her love until the end. Even during her last weeks, she would repeatedly tell everyone around her that she loved them and gave them many kisses, and she expressed gratitude for anything that you did to help her, even just assisting her to sit in her chair.
All who met Evelyn knew her to be such a pleasure, and were uplifted by her love of singing. Evelyn would spend hours singing each day, and loved to entertain you with her songs, of which she knew seemingly hundreds. She was told by a professional singer that she had perfect pitch, even well into her 80s.
Evelyn was truly a remarkable lady. She will be sorely missed by many, including her surviving sister-in-laws and many nieces and nephews, but will live on in the hearts of all whose lives she touched. You have only to remember her warm smile or embracing hug to feel her love still.
Evelyn will be placed in the crypt with her husband at Rose Hills Memorial Park, in Putnam Valley, New York, on Tuesday, Jan.25, 2022 at 1:00 PM. with a brief chapel service open to immediate family only.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. When it is safer to do so, the family will hold a memorial mass for all who wish to honor Evelyn’s life.
HAWTHORNE FUNERAL HOME
21 West Stevens Ave.
Hawthorne, New York 10532